The usual feast of international Classic racing on the first weekend in May is finally with us.

At Newmarket, the British run their first Classics the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas during an exciting two day meeting and, at Churchill Downs, the Americans will present the best of their so-called “Classics” namely the Kentucky Derby. And fun will be had by all as there’s lots of cash to be made this year.

First up, there’s the U.K. 2,000 Guineas (Saturday; Newmarket; 1 mile straight; good to firm; 3:10 p.m. GMT; 9:10 a.m., Jamaica Time). The usual huge field of 17 will thunder down the Rowley Mile but, this year, only a select few have a chance. The winner will come from a very short list of Mastercraftsman and Rip Van Winkle from the Aidan O’Brien camp (both coming directly to the race with no prep); Delegator (Brian Meehan) and Cityscape (Roger Charlton). Trust your humble scribe, everybody else is making up numbers. So, a little old lady with a hatpin has a 25% chance of picking the winner. Let’s see if the inhabitant of Casa Tout can do better than that.

Let’s begin with the two Irish entries. Although Mastercraftsman (by Danehill Dancer out of the Black Tie Affair dam, Starlight Dreams) showed the very best juvenile form last year when winning the Phoenix Stakes by more than 4l from Art Connoisseur), the stable’s whisperers have had Rip Van Winkle as its top Guineas horse all winter despite his disappointing 7th in the Dewhurst (inexperienced; forced wide throughout and not given a hard time). The dogs continue to bark despite a training setback over the winter which put his participation in doubt and a stone squeeze picked up last week which has sidelined him yet again. The trainer reports that he is recovering well from the bruised foot and will run and stable jock Johnny Murtagh has taken the ride but I, for one, will not be hitching my ride to that particular bandwagon.

I fully expect Rip Van Winkle to eclipse Mastercraftsman over the course of the season but not just yet; not over this trip (Rip Van Winkle is by Galileo – a definite influence for stamina); and certainly not after two separate training setbacks. This is still a classic race.

One last point on the relative chances of the O’Brien duo: During the Craven meeting 3 weeks ago, the winners were all coming from centre to high number draws and coming down the outside of the field to win. Rip Van Winkle has drawn stall 5; Mastercraftsman 15. ‘Nuff said!

Roger Charlton’s Cityscape is a most intriguing entry, improving all the time and second in the Greenham on reappearance staying on as if begging for at least a mile but he has done all his best work on easy ground and so is reluctantly left alone on this likely quick surface.

And so we come to the Craven Stakes hero DELEGATOR – my idea of the winner. He did not beat much in the Craven but the manner in which he quickened up brilliantly and came up the hill with his ears pricked, idling somewhat bore the stamp of a Guineas winner. His trainer, Brain Meehan, is set for a big year as he could have started Crowded House here but has assigned that one to the Derby. In DELEGATOR he has more than a back up. All his 4 lifetime starts have been over this course; he is proven at a mile on fast ground; and has all the ticks in the right boxes. I expect DELEGATOR to be an easy winner of the 2,000 Guineas and a forecast (exacta) with Mastercraftsman could prove very lucrative indeed.

On Sunday, the 1,000 Guineas will be run and, sad to say, this is a one filly race. But what a filly!!! RAINBOW VIEW (BANKER BET), a grand stamp of a filly with a perfect action, is not only the best 2 yo filly for last season but the best I have seen for a very, very long time. The best compliment paid to her is the fact that the brilliant filly, Fantasia, who won the Nell Gwyn by 7l on a common canter, swerves this race to run in the French 1,000. This is the very best investment since Disney needed help funding a Theme Park in Florida! Get in early and often!!!

And so it comes to pass that we must cross the Atlantic sea and camp under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs for another Kentucky Derby (that’s DERBY not Darby) – the 135th to be precise. It is also the easiest to work out. Pioneer of the Nile has swept all before him on the synthetic tracks of California but has never run on dirt and, despite his dirt pedigree (by Empire Maker) and his superb morning workouts at Churchill Downs, he is bypassed until he proves it on raceday. He is too short in the betting to take a chance on his making a smooth transition to the unconventional Churchill Downs dirt track in the biggest race of the year. Let’s see. Again, there is a lot of driftwood in this race and only three have realistic chances namely Dunkirk, whose inexperience is countered by his obvious class (posted a Beyer figure of 108 in the Florida Derby) Freisan Fire (winner of his last 3 in a row; all graded stakes; the type to race prominently and will be in front at the top of the lane) and I WANT REVENGE (nap) who has improved beyond all recognition in his last two runs after running exclusively on the synthetics previously.

Freisan Fire by A.P.Indy out of a Dehere mare has progressed on each of his last 3 starts, posting a Beyer 104 when winning the Louisiana Derby but he has been off since (7 weeks) and stretches out to 10f from 8.5f and over the demanding Churchill Downs track. I can see him faltering in deep stretch as Dunkirk (staying on) and I WANT REVENGE (flying) come to win the race. I WANT REVENGE was repeatedly beaten by Pioneer of the Nile on California’s synthetics (always finishing late) but has exploded way past that form at Aqueduct, posting an incredible Beyer 113 in winning the Gotham and, then overcoming a troubled trip in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial to win that too (much the best; was still able to post a Beyer of over 100). He will be ideally suited by this course and distance and the usual madcap early pace. Look for I WANT REVENGE (nap) to swoop late and win from a staying on Dunkirk who I expect to come into his own later on in the Belmont.

Good Luck!



  1. Paul Wright Says:

    I will share this information with Turf Talk listeners [with your permission of course].
    I wish The Red Skull well. I do hope that the change of equipment helps because PussyDon looks unbeatable.
    Till soon,

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